Listen to today’s episode The Refractory Period’s Impact on Erectile Dysfunction through the podcast player embedded above.
Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast
The refractory period is the time after sexual climax (orgasm) before you feel ready and aroused to have sex again. Many men and their partners do not realize that the refractory period tends to get longer with age. Awareness of your refractory period, and the impact it can have on erections, is the subject of today’s podcast episode.
The Erectile Dysfunction Radio Podcast is dedicated to educating and empowering men to address erectile dysfunction, improve confidence, and enhance the satisfaction in their relationships. This podcast is hosted by certified sex therapist, Mark Goldberg, LCMFT, CST.
Transcript of Episode 32 – The Refractory Period’s Impact on Erectile Dysfunction
Casey: Hello folks, it’s Casey here, the podcast producer at Erectile Dysfunction Radio. Once again, I am joined by our host, Mark, and today we’re going to be discussing the refractory period and what it means when discussing erectile dysfunction.
Mark, what is the refractory period as it relates to sex, and why is it relevant to our overall discussions on erectile dysfunction? I’ll let you take it away.
Mark: Okay Casey, so let’s talk a little bit about what a refractory period is. So when we’re looking at different models of the sexual cycle, the most basic model goes something like desire, arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution.
So a person would feel desire that leads to arousal leads to, let’s say in the case of men, that would lead to an erection, which would lead to an orgasm, and then this resolution period is really what we’re talking about here, is when things start back over. So it really is the in-between period, post-orgasm after a man has had an orgasm until he is ready to start the process over.
So when it comes to erections, there is a period of time from the time that a man orgasms until he would be in a position that he would be able to gain and maintain a satisfactory erection and we call that time period the refractory period.
Casey: Is this something that both men and women experience?
Mark: So this is a complicated question to say the least. Men experience refractory periods, it’s pretty well documented. Women vary, so some women will have a refractory period, which means that once they achieve orgasm, they would not be in a position physiologically where they would be able to then engage in another orgasm, other women have that capacity where they can have what’s called multiple orgasms.
So the notion of a refectory period is a little less binary when it comes to women as opposed to men, where there is pretty much a universal concept that there is a refractory period that a man cannot just rather instantaneously regain in erection and continue with sexual activity once he has achieved an orgasm.
Casey: Yeah, I think we’ve maybe all seen in a television show or a movie when after sex, a man is maybe he’s looking for the remote to put on the game or grab some snacks, meanwhile the woman might be ready to keep going, continuing to have sex. So is that kind of what you’re talking about in terms of this refractory period?
Mark: This is a great segue to the other concept and refractory period, so yes, that is a common stereotype that is absolutely displayed on television. And there’s good reason for that. So with the physiological refractory period, in other words, men experience a physical barrier to being able to regain that erection, also comes a mental refractory period.
After a man achieves an orgasm, the interest in sex also drops with that physical inability to regain the erection, whereas a woman may not have that same drop-off because physiologically, she may not have a refractory period, so mentally, she may be interested in continuing to engage.
Casey: So how does this refractory period relate back to our overall discussions that we continuously have on this podcast about erectile dysfunction?
Mark: So that’s a great question. So there’s a number of concepts here that directly impact erectile dysfunction, so first and foremost, the refractory period extends physiologically speaking, gets longer as men age.
A young, healthy 18-year-old male may have a refractory period as small as 10 minutes or 15 minutes, meaning that he can re-engage in sexual activity pretty quickly and so far as being able to gain and maintain an erection.
Whereas a man who’s in his 50s and 60s could have a refractory period of a day. As men age, their ability to re-engage in sexual activity, goes down. Now, if we take as an example, a couple that has been together for 30 years and they’ve developed sexual routines.
If part of their routine was after a man orgasms, they continue to engage in sexual activity until he regains his erection, which generally took 20 minutes, as he ages though, that refractory period, it gets longer and longer, which means the routine gets thrown off.
Now without knowing about this refractory period, men can begin to panic that something is going wrong, that’s something that used to work in a certain kind of way isn’t working.
That is just the natural refractory period, it wouldn’t be a physiological erectile dysfunction, it would just be an extended refractory period physiologically. Now, that panic can induce a whole lot of other problems and can lead to bonafide difficulties initially gaining and maintaining that erection when everything gets thrown off.
That’s just one way that the refractory period begins to relate to erectile dysfunction. Another way is the mental refractory period that we spoke about. So that also can extend over time and it can extend a whole lot longer than the physical refractory period.
There are men that have a mental refractory period of weeks where they build up to have sexual desire, they achieve orgasm, and that mental refractory period, if left alone can extend for weeks on end.
A man can begin to panic if he doesn’t know what is happening, that he’s got desire issues, that he isn’t getting erections like he used to, and a lot of that may just relate to not knowing how to properly manage an extended mental refractory period. This can lead to and induce erectile difficulties and erectile dysfunction.
Casey: So we’ve all heard a rumor, those of us who maybe follow sports closely as I do, we’ve heard rumors that men shouldn’t engage in sexual activity before major sporting events. It’s been, I believe, debunked by people and it’s been called a myth, but what are your thoughts on that… and does that relate overall, to this discussion on the refractory period?
Mark: To my knowledge, that myth has been debunked, I do think though, that does relate to the concept of a refractory period. In other words, that before men reach orgasm, the mythical or the stereotypical point of view, is that there is this massive build-up, and if you don’t release it, that somehow it will create more aggressive energy, but once it’s released, men would be less aggressive.
I do believe it’s related to this concept, although I am not aware of that being directly applicable to outcomes and sports performance necessarily.
Casey: Yeah, that’s fair enough. It is an old urban legend, almost type thing, I don’t think it’s rooted in science, I’ve heard many athletes say that it’s nonsense and things like that, but I figured I would ask that anyways. Mark, is there anything else you want to discuss about the refractory period and how it relates to a man’s age?
Mark: So, like I mentioned earlier in the example, I think it’s important for men to just be aware that there is a refractory period and that will get extended over time. That’s just the natural progression of the body, it does not mean that you have a erectile dysfunction.
What it does mean is that you may not be able to engage with the desired frequency that you have, or you may not be able to engage in a way that you used to, and making those adjustments is really, really key to having a satisfactory sex life.
If a man panics about it, or if a man is frustrated about it, it can lead to all kinds of relationship problems and sexual dysfunction problems. In my experience, partners are very understanding that things change and life changes, and part of being in a relationship is having to adjust to those changes together.
And if men are accepting of this reality, oftentimes their partners are accepting of it too, and they can continue to have a really robust and satisfying sex life.
Casey: Mark, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that you feel may benefit the listeners?
Mark: So I guess the one thing I would add is, even for younger men, I don’t think it helps to look at what the general statistics are on average for refractory periods, there are so many factors that go into a refractory period.
So much of what we talk about on this podcast is the impact of the brain on the erection process. Even if physiologically, your body is potentially ready to do that, but mentally you’re just not there, you had an orgasm and you’re good for the next day because you’ve got other stuff on your plate.
The fact that your partner wants to re-engage and you’re not getting into it is not a sign of a problem, and it doesn’t mean that your refractory period has somehow jumped three decades.
It’s just far more complex in terms of what you see with erections than simply just saying, it’s a physiological refractory period. So again, the key is to not panic, to not assume that you have a erectile dysfunction, because you can’t just make it happen exactly when you want. You have to be compassionate towards yourself and understanding.
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